Friday, 8 November 2013

Amazing second-hand babies

Ok- not babies…. baby goods!

We are now over 10 months into our challenge and where the baby was concerned, we vowed to keep a bit of an open mind around second hand stuff and relax our rules a bit.  This was because
a) pregnancy and preparing for a baby is hard enough without additional pressures
b) our baby hasn't volunteered for this challenge
c) its our first child and we didn't want to miss out on any lovely experiences with her
d) our friends and family wanted to buy us some new things
e) it's our challenge and we can do what we like
f) sorry I am a bag of hormones.

What we have found is that it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE to kit yourself out with baby goods- even ones you really, really want second hand.

Here is a little run down of Little One's stuff and how we acquired it:

1) Cot 

We really wanted a Stokke Cot- it grows with the child- up to the age of 7!!  If you want a specific brand, you need to start hunting early. We bought the cot about 4 months into our pregnancy.  We found that Gumtree was the best site for this sort of purchase.  The cost in the shops is about £1000 I think; we got it for just under £600.  It was in perfect condition and had even been freshly painted in Stokke paint!  Then all we had to do was get a nice new mattress made for it from the lovely people at

It goes without saying that you always need a new mattress as the bacteria held in a mattress from a child that isn't your own can increase the chances of cot death.  The lady we bought the cot from had washed her mattress but we felt that for the additional £40 of buying a new mattress it wasn't worth the risk.  We might re-purpose the old mattress as a dog bed….

2) Seat/High Chair 

Because our dog thinks babies are doggy-lollies, we really needed somewhere to put the baby down, without it being at ground level.  

Luckily, our favourite brand Stokke make a chair that also grows with the child- from new born up to adult, with just a few tweaks.  We found the chair on E-bay, locally to us.  I can't remember how much we paid- it was definitely less than brand new.  

We also got the new born attachment for £20 locally via e-bay and the lady delivered it to me due to the bump which was very kind!  

We have the high chair attachment too when we need that, but for now, at least we will be able to put the baby down without her being pestered by the furry baby.  

3) Wardrobe

I really wanted a vintage one, so off we went to British Heart Foundation in Ealing.  Surprisingly, old wardrobes aren't that popular and thus are pretty cheap.  This is because they don't hold that many adult clothes on the rail, but with a bit of diy help from my parents, we added a second rail and have found it is the perfect size for baby clothes and items.  

We added new nobs (within the rules as was a means of up cycling) from Anthropology.  They weren't cheap; at £20 they were as much as the wardrobe but they make it!  My mum gave the front some tlc and treated some of the scratches with a special wax and stain.  

4) Clothes

We have bought lots of baby grows from Fara charity shops- the ones especially for children.  We live in a nice area- Richmond so all the shops have very good donations.  I would recommend going to affluent boroughs/areas to get the best stuff.  Our favourite brand it Petit Bateau and we have found some lovely bits made by them for a snip of the price- here is my favourite find so far- £50 in the shops, £8 from Fara.  Surprisingly, it's pink!

The things you can't find second hand very easily are vests and basic like socks, bibs etc- this is because they just get wrecked and stained and minging.  So we have bought quite a few bits new to fill this gap.  And then, under reason c) and e) and f) above, we have also bought some lovely new "best" outfits.  I feel fine about this as we have done brilliantly so far with this second hand malarky!

We have also been given lots of things by lovely friends and relatives who have also had baby girls.  We are so grateful to friends and family for everything they have given/lent us.    

5) Nursery decorations

We have "nursery corner" as we just have one bedroom, but we wanted to decorate it and make it feel like a distinct baby space.  

I found some crates (not second hand- sorry) and my Dad put them up on the wall like shelves.  All the bits inside are a mixture of H's old toys, my Mum's Beatrix Potter books and vintage finds and treasures we have been collecting from vintage fairs and fleas.  

My favourites are the Potter books that my Dad made into shelves by drilling through them and then mounting them on the wall with a tiny bracket.  Those are my books- given to me by my late Grandpa.  

The only thing that is new is the hedge-hog toy and other softies- she deserves her first soft toys to be new, I think! 

So- there you have it- those are the big things we have done second hand.  

We decided to opt-out of getting a second hand buggy.  You may be disappointed in us re this, Dear Reader, but we wanted a very specific, new model and my parents offered to gift it to us.  It is an absolute dream and I can't wait to use it!!  

Happy Thrifting! 

A x

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What I have learnt so far

So Dear Reader- it has been a while since I posted. I am sorry about that but I wanted to tell you that we are now 6.5 months pregnant and 8 months through our challenge. 

So far, we have not bought anything new for us (bar umbrella) and have done really well with baby purchases too. 

It was our intention to keep baby things as far as possible within the rules but as she has not volunteered for this project we are being more flexible on her things. We have stretched the rules to a new rattle for her that looks like a donkey. That is all! Oooh- we are having a girl by the way! 

It has been an interesting time over the last few months not buying new. I have found that sometimes I have used the project to negate or ignore my needs because it seemed like too much effort. I have sometimes had the thought "I don't need to buy anything at all". Which is a BIG FAT LIE. I need and want loads of stuff!! I think sometimes I have not been in a particularly abundant mind frame and have denied myself things- which is not what this process was intended for! 

I wanted to feel more connected to buying and choices- not to spend and buy mindlessly. Pre challenge- if I went into a shop, I would often feel like I needed to buy something. That I would never find another item like the one I was holding- again a complete lack of abundant thinking. I guess it is natural that during this detox I might swing the other way a bit. I guess I just wanted to offer some explanation as to why everything seemingly went quiet! 

So, after a bit of time reflecting on what the challenge has thrown up for me- I have got back on the horse. 

I have done very well in terms of finding a second hand and non new maternity wardrobe and here are my top tips in that department: 

1. Tell your friends that you need their cast offs- they are only too happy to clear their lofts. My lovely Mummy friends have kitted me out with:
5 yes 5 pairs of maternity jeans! I made one pair into shorts that have seen me through the summer. 
2 dresses, 1 top and one very smart
Autumn coat. 
I have also been loaned a smart dress which I only wear for work. I am slightly nervous about wrecking it but hopefully restricted wear will help! 

2. Check out your local Fara charity shop. I have picked up preggy jim jams (made me sooooo happy), a top, and a dress and more jeans. 

3. Look for larger sized dresses in charity shops and belt them in.

4. Go to local convent bizzares. Last year I went to a nursing home bizzare that is a convent. I found 3 50s maternity dresses for 25p each. I guess that's where in married women went in those days and someone's clothes were found in a cupboard! 

5. Make your own. I got some Liberty Print fabric for my birthday and using a non maternity but loose pattern from John Lewis made this dress. I love it. 2 tops still in progress...

So- that's all for now Dear Reader! I promise to write soon about more of our successes in non-new baby itemry and others,


Alice x 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

How my chest got us a 'new' washer-dryer (kind of)

Wowee- it is the middle of May; almost at the half way point of our challenge.  So far, so good- (bar one umbrella), neither H, nor I have bought anything new and have stuck to our rules.

We had our first big challenge recently- one I was dreading... our very old, very tired washer-dryer machine broke down last weekend.  I felt really nervous about buying second hand electricals.  I think its partly because they are pretty reasonably priced first hand and I worried we would find ourselves saving just £50 on a second hand washer and then it being a pile of cr@p.

However- there are options for buying decent second-hand white goods.  British Heart Foundation have lots of lovely furniture and white goods warehouse type shops (we have one locally, in Ealing) where they guarantee their white goods for a year.  I have had a look at their washing machines before and whilst they are a little over priced for my liking (£200 for second hand is a bit steep I think) they will deliver and you do have the guarantee.

H was very clear with me, however, that we are going to need a washer-dryer when the little one comes.  The dryer in our Candy combo broke about 2 years ago so we have got away without one for a while but I think she is probably right. I imagine there will be times when we just need to dry the baby's bedsheets or whatever, quickly.

So- we started hunting.  I like Gumtree for second hand electrical goods.  I can't be bothered with bidding on e-bay, I find it a bit too impersonal- no number to call and just have a chat about the item and searching locally is just a bit of a faff.  With Gumtree- you just search for what you want where you want it and lo and behold we found a Hotpoint washer-dryer, 2 years old, in Kew (down the road) for £150!  We went to see it and it was the cleanest white good we have ever seen and after getting a good feeling from the seller (soooo important) we arranged collection.

Now.... how do you collect a washing machine??  We had a few options- our local taxi service said they would send a 6 seater and pick it up for £20 but we would need to do some of the lifting.  Possibly an option (the seller said he would help load it for us as obv I can't lift anything).  We could have also tried to put it in our car with the seats down.... but its not a good idea to lie a washer on its back as the concrete block in the top could have warped the whole thing.

What H said was, if we could get a trolley of some kind, she would wheel it the 1.5 miles home from the seller's house.  But where do you get a trolley from, Dear Reader?  Well, I went to Homebase and considered borrowing one but realised it was too heavy for me to get in the car and probably was considered steeling....and then I had an idea.  I wondered if our local (i.e. next door) recycling centre could help us.  I drove in, went to the scary portacabin (why are those places so intimidating?),  and explained that we needed to get rid of our washer and collect a new one and asked if they could lend us a trolley. Now it may have been because I was bending over slightly when I asked (to look through the little hole in the screen) and my new pregnant frontage did the trick or maybe they were just really nice guy- but they took me round the back (hold on) and gave me a Homebase trolley to borrow that they pulled out of the tip!

So- after a bit of furniture removal, we dumped our old washer at the tip, and wheeled ourselves the 1.5 miles to the seller's house, strapped the 'new' washer-dryer to the trolley and wheeled it home.  We did get some looks but we felt SUPER SMUG so we didn't care.

And it all ends well, Dear Reader- the washer is fantastic- it actually cleans clothes which is a bit of a novelty for us (why did we wait so long?!). It has a zillion programmes and is very quiet.  The dryer part is a bit temperamental but we aren't going to use it hardly so all in all, we are dead chuffed.  

H is currently working through a list of baby items that we need- I will report back on how we do, very soon.  

In the meantime- tell me, Dear Reader- have you scored some good second hand electrical goods?


Alice x

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Haberdashery cabinet- how I love thee!

So, you will remember back in February, I announced that I am opening premises for my craft and vintage events business Handmade by You.

Although this challenge does not apply to the business (as I wouldn't be able to run it without buying anything new) I have as much as possible tried to buy second hand in setting up the studio.  The Studio is in Alfies Antique Market, Marylebone and if you haven't been yet to have a mooch around, you really must- it is a treasure trove.

There was this lovely lady who had a haberdashery shop, selling lovely bits of lace, trimmings, buckles etc- you name it, she had it.  Unfortunately she has now retired and a couple of weeks ago, she shut her doors.  I was lucky enough to go in there about a month ago and spied an amazing haberdashers cabinet tucked away in the corner.

I have longed for one of these for some years and could not resist it for the Studio.  I can't reveal how much I paid for it, Dear Reader but it was not cheap and nor should it be.  It is a beautiful piece that I and my clients will enjoy and I was happy to pay a fair price for it.

I haven't quite organised the draws yet- I am so looking forward to that part- it will be very satisfying.  Here is a wide shot with my childhood dolls house on top of it which I am using to store china!

Love Alice x

Monday, 25 March 2013

A new addition to the Handmade and Found Family

Sorry I have not been blogging much, Dear Reader- things have been a bit crazy to say the least.

I have some more big news- H and I are having a baby!  We found out a couple of weeks ago so it is very early days for us but I just can't contain myself; I have to share the news.

It has been a very long journey to get to destination 'baby'.  I know many couples also have challenges getting pregnant so this in itself is nothing new, but as a same sex couple it is very challenging if you don't have a spare £10K in the bank and want to have a baby.  We explored lots of options- including co-parenting and using a known donor but in the end we went for an anonymous donor and received IUI (insemination) treatment at a private clinic in London.  We were told there was a 12% chance of us conceiving (which is the percentage chance for anyone trying to get pregnant, the regular way) and were astonished when we defied the odds and got pregnant first time.  (And thank God- the procedure was the worst thing I have ever experienced).  I am feeling well at the moment, if a bit up and down both emotionally and with my energy levels.  Both of us are incredibly excited about becoming parents.

A friend of mine asked if having the baby might mean we disband the challenge of not buying new for a year.  My first thoughts were "Hell No!".  Having a baby is the perfect opportunity to ramp up our second hand buying activities- there is just no need to buy anything new especially when it might only be used for a matter or weeks or months.  Especially when several of my lovely friends have babies under 2 and are probably itching to clear space in their garages of all the toys and kit they no longer need/use.

So- I have added a few baby related items to the wishlist- big things and small things that we want and I can't wait to report how we get on finding them.  I would love to get everything we need for less than £500 too- that would be a real win!

I have also listed a few maternity items for me- tops and jeans and will venture into second hand places I have never been before in order to hunt these out- how exciting!!

I promise to keep in touch more regularly Dear Reader and let you know how all this goes!


Alice x

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Shoes glorious shoes

As you are aware, Dear Reader; I am challenged by second hand shoes.  I find it so hard to get good ones in charity shops and vintage shoes are always too small- I am only a size 4.5-5 but I think if you are a size 3 you get the pick of the bunch.  New shoes are a challenge for me too- I am very picky, will not tolerate the need to break shoes in or sustain blisters for the sake of a beautiful pair.

But, I have been buoyed recently by lovely twitter folk tell me how they have loads of pairs of second hand shoes and I need more faith.

And at a recent pop-up fair in Islington, I found a fantastic pair of 80s suede pixie boots for £5, yes, you heard me, suede boots for £5.

Here are the little beauties:

So maybe my faith in second-hand shoe shopping has been restored?  Hmm?

Love Alice x

Sunday, 24 February 2013

I found the perfect gift for my Dad!

As you know, Dear Reader, gifts have been the source of a bit of worry for me over the last month..... with one in particular being for my Dad.

My Dad is the kind of person that wants for nothing- it is a family joke that he would wear his clothes until they were falling off his back, if it wasn't for my Mum quickly disposing of his worn-out wardrobe and insisting he buy something new.  To be fair, she keeps him in pretty good shape but without her he might look a bit trampy (sorry Dad but it is true!).

He is so proud when he has kept something for ages; he has a pair of white leather shoes that he used to do the gardening in, which he revels in telling me and my sister that he had had them since we went to Tunisia, which is when I was 11.  So- he is a good role model for this challenge!  However, because he wants for little, he is very hard to buy for.  He doesn't have practical hobbies; he loves Rugby and the usual things- holidays, socialising etc but it is hard to think of something he might like gift-wise even under normal circumstances, let alone with the challenge.

What I have come to realise, is that when buying a gift under this challenge- it is better to just get out there and see what is on offer, rather than to have a fixed idea of what you want to buy and trying to find that particular item.  I like to think that if I have an open mind, the Second-hand Fairies provide.

And boy, did they, the other weekend!  H and I headed off to a Pop-Up Vintage Fair in Islington recently; I love these fairs- they are always super friendly and full of affordable loveliness.  Plus there is a vintage style tea service and entertainment.  We were having a little mooch and I spied a lovely little something on a stall...

A gorgeous, vintage travel razor- complete with blade holder- for £5!  I did a little research on-line and found some blades that would fit for £6 and got them delivered.  

My Dad seemed to really like the gift- he goes away quite frequently with Mum on breaks and holidays  and this is both useful and beautiful. 

So- Dear Reader, I am feeling buoyant again, after umbrella-gate.   Buying nothing new IS a great idea and does work!!

Love Alice x